Apologies for the long delay in posts, but we here at Paradise Leased have had a very busy summer with much travelling hither and yon and a number of projects to complete. Things may continue to be shaky for a bit, but don’t give up on us. We’re not going away any time soon, we’re just going to be a little quieter than usual! You never know though, we may pop up in the strangest of places.
As part of our recent travels I had the delight of passing through the very center of Nevada and pausing at the charming old silver mining town of Austin. It was a double treat as running right through the center of the old town is the famous old Lincoln Highway, which I believe was the very first official transcontinental automobile highway in America (1915), running from Times Square to Golden Gate Park. One of the items on my “Bucket List” is to one day take this great old highway its full length.
In this section the highway has been dubbed “America’s Loneliest Road,” but I was on lonelier roads on this trip including the one from Battle Mountain to Austin. Just me and a surprising antelope – surprising because I found him standing the middle of the road as I came around a bend at slightly more than the posted speed limit. With a bland look of idle curiosity, the antelope stood resolutely straddling the yellow dividing line as the screeching mass of metal that was my car came hurtling towards him. Fortunately, the brakes held and after I came to a jolting stop with smoke rising from the tires and everything formerly in the back seat now in the front, we stared eye to eye for a moment, my eyes wild with shock, his blankly passive. After what seemed like minutes, the antelope blinked, turned and slowly sauntered off the road, feeling no doubt satisfied he had proven his point. By now, Nellie had pulled out her trusty Derringer and had a good bead on the antelope’s smug posterior with plans for antelope steaks, but I thought we should let him be as it would only delay “cocktail hour” in Austin.
Safely ensconced in Austin, I gave myself a real treat to walk up the dirt road at sunset leading to the famous Stokes Castle, a place I had heard about since I was a little kid, but never thought I’d get anywhere near seeing it. The “Castle” sure lived up to expectations. It’s not big per se, quite small as castles go, but the setting was second to none. And at sunset it was truly spectacular.
There are a number of sites that give the castle’s history, but a short version is that the tower (that’s what the owners called it rather than castle) was built by a man named Anson Phelps Stokes, a wealthy mining and railroad man, who intended the place to be a unique summer retreat for himself, his friends and family. Stokes apparently modeled the tower after one he had seen on a tour through Italy. Construction began in 1896 and was completed the following year using native granite stone blocks hoisted into place by a hand-cranked winch.
Architecturally, it had a pretty interesting layout. The tower was three stories high with each of the floors having its own fireplace. The ground floor held the kitchen and dining room; the second floor was devoted entirely to the living room and the top floor featured two bedrooms. There was modern plumbing and the top two floors both had large wooden balconies. Of special note was a rooftop terrace. It is said that when it was completed in 1897, the Tower was filled with the finest of furnishings and artwork befitting a “castle.”
Sadly, the fascinating Stokes Castle had only the briefest of lives as a Stokes summer home. It appears the family used it only a few times between 1897 and 1898 before selling their mining interests in the area and their strange castle as well. Over the ensuing years, the Tower suffered from deferred maintainance until its interior floors became so unsafe they were finally removed.
While I was wandering around the perimeter fence a car pulled up and I discovered one of the occupants knew the current owner of the Castle and told me the good news that he was donating the whole site to the State of Nevada for preservation. The Castle is already on the National Register as well. Hopefully, over time the site can be developed into something of a park.
You really have to see it in person though to appreciate its stark beauty. And it had/and has a stunning view that seems to stretch out for hundreds of miles. I can still imagine being there with it in its brief heyday with roaring fires in the fireplaces playing off the stone walls and polished floors and with the terrace doors open to the night breeze with the silhouettes of the magnificent mountain ranges stretched out in the distance with a carpet of stars above. What a moment of paradise!